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Notwithstanding, however, this general accusation of want of method, M. Ginguené bas pointed out a real unity of action, at least, in the Orlando Furioso. Its true hero is Ruggiero, and the poem therefore ends, in strict conformity with all the acknowledged laws of the epic, in the marriage of that 'fabled ancestor of the House of Este.'
"The secret end of the poet,' says M. Sismondi, (who agrees with M. Ginguené,) is thus explained, and brought before the eyes of the reader. Nevertheless, I regret the conviction which this explanation brings with it, these noble monuments of human genius shrink in the imagination when they convey to it only the idea of an ingenious flattery. It is enough for poets to consecrate the few verses, in the way of episode, to the celebration of their benefactors, without constituting the entire plan of their noblest works a mere scaffolding to display the praises of those who are undeserving of glory.'
Whether this remark does not savour rather of unnecessary aussterity than of the spirit of indulgent criticism, we must leave to our readers; for ourselves, we shall only say that it would be undoubtedly just if the end of such a poem as the Orlando were erer in view of the readers. But since it has cost a great deal of critical labour to discover that it has any end at all, it seems to be a matter of comparative indifference what that end, in reality, is; and no reader, we apprehend, need be seriously disturbed in his enjoyment either of the gay or of the pathetic passages of bis author by reflecting that the union of Ruggiero and Bradamante is the end of the poem, and that its object is a compliment to the Duke Alfonso or the cardinal Hippolyto.
The other poetical qualities of this great artist are appreciated as they deserve, particularly his versification.
“That versification is much more remarkable for grace, sweetness, and elegance, than for majesty--its beauties are particularly eminent in the introductory stanzas of every canto, which are always ornamented by the richest poetry. For perfect harmony of language, no poet before or since can be compared to him. He paints whatever he treats of, and the eyes of the reader follow the poet in all his recitals. Since he is constantly sporting with his subject, with his readers, even with his style itself, he seldom attains, and never supports himself at the elevation of epic poetry. He even seeks the grace of facility in negligence. Often he begins a new stanza by repeating some of the phrases with which he finished the preceding, as in story-telling we go back upon our words to give ourselves time for recollection.* Often he throws about his expressions without caution, and as if by mere chance. We even feel that he has not chosen that which is most fit for
Ma quivi giunsc
the occasion, that half verses are forced in merely for the sake of the rhyme, that the poet has made it his business to write as an improvisatore sings, who, possessed by his subject, thinks it enough to fill up the measure that he may arrive the sooner at the event or image that occupies his mind. These negligences would any where else be faults ; but Ariosto, who laboured all his verses and left these irregularities in them by design, has, in his language, in his very abandonment, so inimitable a grace, that his nonchalance pleases us like real simplicity, and furnishes us, as it were, with a proof of the reality of his narrative.'
We cannot find space even for the titles of the numerous poems in imitation of Boyardo and Ariosto, which issued from the Italian press during the sixteenth century. A general catalogue, together with some account of a few of them, which, though brief, appears to be fuller than they deserve, may be found in M. Ginó guenè’s fifth volume. But we ought not to conclude the subject without bestowing some notice on the Rifaccimento of the Orlando Innamorato by Francesco Berni, which has so entirely superseded the original that no body now reads or thinks of the genuine Boyardo. With reference, however, to the space we have already occupied, we must content ourselves with the following slight but just observations of M. Sismondi on that peculiar style of humour wbich takes its name, though, as we have already seen, not absolutely its origin, from the writer now mentioned.
• Berni had made the ancients his study, and he composed Latin verses, himself, with some elegance; he had thus purified his taste, and accustomed himself to the labour of correction. His pleasantries have so much nature and comic truth that they allow us to conceive the enthusiasm with which he is still held up as a model by a powerful party of admirers; but under bis management every thing was converted to folly; his satire was almost always personal, and, when he chose to excite a laugh, no respect for morals or decency restrained him. His Orlando Innamorato is reckoned among their classical poems by the Italians. Berni, even to a greater degree than Ariosto, thought it impossible to view chivalry under any other light than that of ridicule : he has not burlesqued the work of Boyardo ; it is still the same romance ; told in good earnest, but told by a man who cannot refrain from laughing all the while at the absurdities he is telling us. The versification is laboured; the wit is scattered profusely; the gaiety is more sportive than that of Ariosto; but for imagination, colouring, richness, all that constitutes true poetry, the two books never can be compared with each other.
The heroic poem of Tasso is founded on models very different from those which produced the tragi-comic romance of Ariosto and Berni; or rather the serious of those last compositions mingled with other sources in the composition of that which alone deserves the name of epic in Italian poetry. We shall probably revert to this subject.
Art. II. The Tragedies of Maddelen, Agamemnon, Lady Mac
beth, Antonia, and Clytemnestra. By John Galt. London ; Cadell and Davies. 1812. Royal 8vo. pp. 262.
E have reason to apprehend, that the observations which in a
Mr. Galt, have not been taken in such good part by this ingenious writer as our wishes had led us to anticipate. Warned by this failure, we should perhaps have declined recurring to this new work if we foresaw in it any seeds of a difference of opinion ; but as we think these tragedies are nearly perfect in their kind, and as our observations can be little else than a stream of panegyric, we hasten to renew our acquaintance with Mr. Galt, and we trust with fairer prospects of mutual satisfaction.
The most distinguishing quality of Mr. Galt which strikes every reader on opening his book, and which has even so forced itself on his own modesty, that he notices it in his preface, is boldness; in one not so highly gisted, it would deserve another name; but in Mr. Galt we admit it to be the legitimate flight of genius, and we admire the happy audacity with which he challenges comparison with Sophocles, Euripides, Shakspeare, Racine, and Otway. These are undoubtedly the great masters of the tragic art, and every writer who aims at any degree of excellence in it, must have them before him as models for imitation; but it is not to this common praise that Mr. Galt aspires; he approaches them less as a scholar than as a rival,- he encounters rather than imitates them ;-with a nobleness of soul above all praise, he dares them in their most tropbied fields, and the names of ‘Lady Macbeth, Clytemnestra,' and 'Agamemnon,' attest at once the rivalry and the confidence of Mc. Galt.
Mr. Galt is too acute an observer not to perceive, that, in a struggle with such champions, the spectators
, from prejudices of education and habit, would be somewhat partial to them; but he was conscious, and indeed admits, that his manner of treating the subjects would be altogether different from Euripides or Shakspeare's,--that it would be soon seen that he was no servile imitator—and that his style was one which could not be mistaken for that of any other author living or dead.
The plot of Maddelen is familiar to the stage,-the love of the son of an old husband for a young and blooming step-mother: this will remind our readers of Otway's Don Carlos ; but it is but justice to Mr. Galt to say, that except a line or two which he bere and there condescends to transplant, there is nothing in Madde, len that will bring Otway to tbeir recollection. VOL. XI. NO. XXI.
Indeed the fatal love,-the terrible trial of the strongest and tenderest of human feelings-was not, as Mr. Galt informs us, his impulse to write this tragedy; that would have been too common and vulgar an object. • The piece,' he says,
was undertaken to try whither (meaning, perhaps, whether) such a person as the Dutchess, a character of meaner energies than the generality of those on whom the interest of the solemn drama is supposed essentially to depend, might be rendered capable of exciting a tragical degree of poetical sympathy.'—(Pref. p. vi.) In other words, whether the meanest and least important character in a play, might not be made the most prominent and interesting. This, it will be admitted, is a novel attempt; but it has completely succeeded :-we think, (and our readers will presently be of the saine opinion, that whenever this play shall be acted, the good old Dutchess will be far the most entertaining person of the whole drama. Her Grace is, we know not how, the aunt of the son and of the bride, and a kind of confidant of their mutual love; about which, with great prudence, she never says a word till the ill-starred nuptials have taken place, when she suddenly becomes so 'giddy and garrulous' that she can talk of nothing else : and (wbat exceedinglyincreases the interest)meaning, and indeed suspecting no kind of mischief, she is particularly jocose on the subject with the poor father-husband, a worthy old gentleman, who, if the Dutchess's fit of talking had come on at about nine in the morning instead of noon, would have been but too happy to hand over bis bride to his son. This consistency in loquacity however, (though, according to Shakspeare and other tame copyers of the human character, it would have been more natural,) Mr. Galt bas very properly neglected; we say very properly, because if the Dutchess had laughed, winked, or muttered, one minute too soon, there could have been no tragedy at all ; the young couple would have been married, and the old folks wonid have retired quietly to their respective beds.
Her grace the Dutchess meets Count Valdini, the old bridegroom, and thus addresses him.
Joy! joy, my Lord! how does my Lady niece?
VALDINI. I never heard of Don Lorenzo's passion !--pp. 7, 8. There—that is the whole plot—the secret's out; the snappish dog is in love with the cunning toad : and you shall bear how she and the Duke discourse in the next scene upon this tardy indiscretion.
The bridegroom here, with parchments in his hand !
There, with a handkerchief dejected sits,